Saturday, July 30, 2011

Basil Butter String Beans

The first dish I remember cooking is a string bean side dish for our grammar school pre-Thanksgiving celebration.  Students were split up into groups and sent to various nearby homes to prepare a contribution for our grade wide feast.  

That recipe became known at our Thanksgiving table as "Lauren's green beans."  The fact that I contributed a dish at all likely made those string beans "mine" at the tender age of eight or nine.  After a month of blogging and reflecting on food, it's the evocation of memories such as this one that I am loving most about this space.  

My CSA delivery included green, yellow and purple string beans, a gorgeous medley of color in the pan.  The preparation below includes minimal ingredients.  We enjoyed ours along side local grass fed rib-eyed steak and yummy garlic bread.

To my surprise, the purple beans turned green while cooking.  Anyone know why this happens?   

Basil Butter String Beans
  • 2- 3 cups fresh string beans of any color, ends trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 7-8 large basil leaves
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Chiffonade the basil by stacking the leaves, rolling them into a pinwheel and thinly slicing into long strips. A photo demonstration on how to chiffonade herbs is located here
  • Add 1/2 inch of water to a large saute pan and bring to boil.
  • Add the string beans to the pan, quickly steaming for 5-8 minutes depending on preference.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate pan, melt the butter over low heat.  Once liquefied, add basil and mix well.  Let the basil cook in the butter until the string beans are steamed.
  • Drain the beans, toss in the basil butter and a finish with a few cracks of black pepper. 
About String Beans
Originally domesticated in Mesoamerica and part of the "three sisters" of Native American agriculture, string beans or common beans are a great source of folic acid.  Typically green, there are also yellow and purple varieties as seen in this photo. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Coconut Vegetable Curry

While visiting my sister-in-law this winter, we enjoyed terrific Thai vegetable curry with extra eggplant. The night, like most memorable ones, was special in its own right. Blizzard induced power outages in the California Sierra Nevada mountains left us picking up take-out a few towns over and hiking it 1.5 miles via sled to a fire and candle-lit home. The eggplant, which she raved about during our hike, lived up to its fame. Not soggy or seedy, but crispy with a sweet finish.

What I love about vegetable curry is that you can use just about any veggies on hand. Here, I've used my CSA goodies, however most anything can be quickly simmered in this sauce for a easy and enjoyable meal. My husband ate in seconds... always a good sign.

Coconut Vegetable Curry
  • 1.5 teaspoons thai chili paste, such as this type available in international aisles  or specialty stores
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons srirachi (or any hot sauce)
  • Rice or cous cous
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and chopped ginger
  • 3-4 cups of chopped fresh vegetables.  I used: 
    • 1 small eggplant, diced in 1.5 inch cubes
    • 1.5 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half
    • 1 cup chopped napa cabbage
    • 1 small green pepper, diced
  • Optional: Protein of your choice. Cook chicken, sausage or tofu almost to completion in the pot as a first step. Continue with the directions below a few minutes before your protein is fully cooked. 
  • Over medium flame, add olive oil and heat for about 1 minute until glassy.  Add eggplant, and let cook for 4-5 minutes until almost brown. Toss in the green beans, pepper and any other sturdy vegetables (i.e. onion, broccoli etc.) you might be using.  Mix in the ginger and cook for another 4 -5 minutes.
  • Pour coconut milk over vegetables, stirring the pot.  
  • Add in the cabbage and/or any other softer veg (i.e. tomato, leafy greens). Spoon in srirachi and chili paste, stirring well to dilute in the broth.  Add more paste to up the desired heat factor.  Simmer over low-medium heat for 6-8 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook rice or cous cous according to package. Serve curry over preferred grains with a generous heaping of sauce.
About Eggplant
Believed to be domesticated in Southeast Asia, eggplant is also known as aubergine. Its initially uses were likely medicinal, and due to its seeds it's actually botanically classified as a berry. Surprisingly perishable, eggplants are best used within 3-5 days of acquisition.  For a variety of eggplant recipes, including a pepper relish and three cheese, check out this link to

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fresh Cherry & Blueberry Tart

On Sunday, we had dinner guests.  Without embarrassing one of my faithful readers, let’s just say we were meeting a family members new flame and I wanted this meal to be just "so".  I was striving for the delicate balance of tasty, not showy; mildly memorable, not over the top.

I settled on a squash and scallop pasta, with a CSA summer salad.  Still eager to somehow acknowledge the motivating factor behind the get-together, I added a homemade fruit tart.  Fresh fruit and pastry scream summer to me, and offered (I hope!) a slightly festive end to the meal.

If you want your custard to work the first time, do not multi-task.  It would not be advisable to place your custard on the burner and then sneak in a quick table setting and candle arrangement.  You'll end up passing any salvageable custard through your soup strainer to de-clump it, and redo a second batch anyway.

What would you have prepared to impress but not inundate a new guest?  I'd love to hear your comments! 

Cherry & Blueberry Tart
  • 1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and chopped into pieces  
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour 
  • 1 cup milk (full fat)
  •  2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • Fresh in-season fruit. I used CSA cherries and blueberries from my farmers market
  • 1/4 cup jam for sealing (apricot works well, though I had strawberry on hand) 
      • Pastry: Using fingers, rub butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal; stir in sugar and egg yolks; form a dough ball and refrigerate in plastic wrap for 30 minutes; preheat oven to 375°F.
      • Roll pastry between two sheets of wax paper, making pastry large enough to cover base and sides of a buttered 9-inch fluted tart pan; trim edges; place sheet of foil into pastry and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice; bake 20-25 minutes; remove foil and weights and bake a further 5 minutes; allow to cool.
      • Custard: In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar and flour until thick; heat milk in saucepan until almost boiling; remove from heat. Slowly dribble hot milk into egg mixture, whisking continuously, until all of milk has been added. I continued whisking to remove clumps.  Next, return custard to pot and cook, over low heat, until custard has thickened and coats the back of a spoon (4-6 minutes), stirring often to prevent sticking. Place piece of plastic wrap directly onto surface of custard (this prevents a 'skin' from forming) and allow to cool completely, in frige for 25 minutes+. 
      • To assemble: Spoon custard into baked shell and smooth. Place fruit "attractively" over tart. Heat jam in the microwave for about 45 seconds until it is liquidized and brush  over the fresh fruit to set and seal the tart. Allow to cool completely.
      • Refrigerate, and serve same day.

      Tuesday, July 19, 2011

      Squash Ribbons with Poached Eggs

      Squash is one of my “grown-up” foods.  After refusing politely declining it for years, I have come around.  It's no kale or beet in my vegetable love spectrum, but I am happy to finally be a content squash eater.

      Two weeks of bountiful green and yellow squash delivery was still a bit overwhelming, despite my new found status.  I challenged myself to use it as simply as possible, and not become bogged down by a complex recipe. 

      When my brother stopped over for an unexpected lunch, the squash called my name.  I whipped out my mandoline, a favorite wedding registry gift, and a light lunch revealed itself.

       Squash Ribbons with Poached Eggs

      • 3 small summer squash, (green & yellow), thinly sliced on a mandoline or by hand
      • 1 glove of garlic, sliced 
      • 3 tablespoons of good olive oil
      • 2-3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
      • 2 organic eggs
      • salt & pepper 

      • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic, sauté for 30 seconds.  Add and sauté the ribbons of squash around the pan.  Toss after a few minutes, and continue to sauté with an additional glug of olive oil and a few healthy cracks of salt and pepper.  Sauté until translucent, and just browned.
      Initial Ribbons 
      Finished Ribbons  
          • Meanwhile, crack eggs into individual small bowls or glasses.  (I find my eggs poach better when I can pour them from a glass, instead of cracking them directly into the water). Bring a small pot of water, three to four inches deep, to boil. Using a spoon, swirl the water rapidly in a circle to create a tornado like effect.  Turn off heat, and quickly pour in the eggs, one after another into the swirling water.  Cover, and let stand for 3 -4 minutes. 
          • Toss squash ribbons with Parmesan cheese, and divide evenly among two plates.  Top with a poached egg, and serve with a hunk of crusty bread.  

            About Summer Squash 
            According to my farmshare e-letter, "summer squash are divided into 4 groups: crookneck, zucchini, straight neck & scallop /pattypan." Squash comes from the Native American word Askutasquash for raw or uncooked. 

            Thursday, July 14, 2011

            Beets ala Buvette

            As you may know from this post, I adore beets. In soup, salads, juiced...heck, I'm toying with candying them over ice cream.  

            On a recent outing to the French gastroteque, Buvette, in the West Village of Manhattan, I fell in love with a side beet salad which I have recreated below.  It's simple enough to let the sweet, earthy flavor of the beets shine through, with a perkiness from horseradish that awakens your tongue.  While Buvette’s version calls for hazelnuts, there were only pine nuts in my cupboard. 

            I served this salad with grilled lemon chicken, sautéed greens and a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on our deck in Montauk.  A perfect evening with good friends.

            Beet ala Buvette
            • 6 - 8 red or golden beets, trimmed and cleaned with skins still intact
            • ½ cup crème fraiche
            • 2 – 5 tablespoons prepared horseradish (yes, sometimes I cheat)
            • 4 tablespoons pine nuts
            • Bring a medium size pot of water, enough to cover the beets, to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes - 1 hour until tender.  Drain the beets and let cool until you are able to handle.  Peel and slice the beets.
            • Over medium heat, toast the pine nuts in a skillet until fragrant and slightly, shaking frequently so as careful not burn. Let cool.
            • In a small bowl, mix the crème fraiche with the horseradish to taste.
            • Combine the beets, horseradish crème and pine nuts, mixing well to coat.
            • Enjoy. 
            Warning: this dish is not a looker. Almost pepto in color, it's “bright” on the plate.  There was, however, a self proclaimed "beet-hater" at my table who asked for a second helping. Your mother was right...never judge a book by it's cover

            Tuesday, July 12, 2011

            Okonomiyaki, A Japanese Pancake

            Japan is my favorite place.  It’s a magical combination of temples and thousand year old soaking tubs, modern technology, awe-inspiring landscapes and delightful food.  I lived there for about a year, first with a wonderful family an hour outside of Osaka, and later working in Tokyo one summer.

            One of the first words I taught myself while living with my home-stay family was “Oishii” or delicious.  I remember specifically looking up the translation in my pocket size Japanese-English dictionary after my Okasan ("mother") cooked her signature eggplant and rice dish for the first time.  It instantly became a favorite meal, and I will re-create it here when eggplants arrive.

            What is amazing about Japanese food is the wide variety.  Sushi, a Western favorite, is a small slice of the palette. Takoyaki, Ramen, Robatayaki, Tofu, amazing pastries… I could hop a flight today just to eat!  If you are headed there, I love this article from Food & Wine detailing a food adventure.  All this Japan talk leads me to today’s CSA food recipe, Okomomiyaki, the Japanese pancake.  Not the sweet breakfast kind, but the savory kind...chock-full of veggies, protein and goodness.

            Prefectures in Japan each have their own versions of Okonomiyaki, cooked and prepared differently.  From the cabbage-filled Osaka style, to the noodle laden Hiroshima version, I sampled and adored them all. 

            When I saw Midge's recipe for Osaka-style Okonomyaki on the wondrous site, Food 52, I could not wait for my CSA cabbage to arrive. 2-3 savory pancakes, dipped in the zesty sriacha mayo sauce make for a hearty, quick and intensely satisfying mid-week meal.  I cooked mine on a favorite kitchen pan, the Le Creuset Cast Iron reversible grill/griddle.

            Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki
            • ½ cup vegenaise (mayonnaise will do)
            • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
            • 3 teaspoons sriracha / hot chili paste
            • 5 organic eggs
            • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
            • 1 teaspoon sea salt
            • 1/3 cup whole wheat or white flour
            • 2 cups cabbage
            • 1 bunch spring onions / scallions
            • 3/4 cups (roughly) chopped shrimp
            • canola oil for frying
            • 1-2 tablespoon sesame seeds
            • (optional) bonita flakes

            • To make the sauce, whisk the vegenaise, 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce and the sriracha. Add more sriracha to taste. Set aside.
            • To make the pancake batter, whisk the eggs, remaining soy sauce, sesame oil and salt.  Add in the flour until mixed, and finally fold in the cabbage, onions/scallions and shrimp.  
            •  Heat the canola oil in skillet over medium heat.  Laddle the pancake batter and cook for about 3 minutes each side.
            • Keep pancakes covered under tinfoil, or in the oven, while finishing.
            • Top with sesame seeds and serve with sauce on the side. 
            • Traditional preparation includes a sprinkle of bonita flakes which add a nice fishy taste.  I was out, and enjoyed these just the same. 

            About Napa Cabbage 
            Napa Cabbage, also known as Celery or Chinese Cabbage, dates back to the fifth century AD and is lighter in flavor, color and consistency than other cabbages. Here are eight great uses.

            Friday, July 1, 2011

            Beet Soup

            If a beet appetizer is on the menu, I cannot not order it.  I shudder to imagine all the lovely soups or inventive appetizers I’ve missed through the years with my blind eye towards the beet, but now it’s an addiction I just can’t quit.  Red, golden, roasted, in soup, with nuts, pickled, I adore every beet.  

            A former co-worker and I keep in touch simply by updating each other on new new beet plates to try around New York City.  A recent favorite in the West Village, here, I will be attempting to recreate it on this blog shortly.

            To my delight, this week’s CSA delivery included both golden and red beets: 

            Inspired by a Cheeky Kitchen post, I settled on beet soup.  The problem is … I cheated.  With leftover beets from a farmer’s market run last weekend already cooked, I didn't roast the beets.  My end result was gorgeous in color, but a little bland, and actually too beety in flavor.  Not the "good" beety, more the canned watery beety flavor. Minus one point LaurenLocally.  

            I remedied this by adding in a solid spoonful or two of crème fraiche.  In the end, I enjoyed my soup with a side of toasted French bread with garlic scape pesto and was satisfied.  

            What follows is my recipe, a "healthier" (bland?) feeling soup unless you add in the crème fraiche.  Dear reader, if earthy is what you are after, I suggest roasting your beets.  Drizzling olive oil on trimmed beets for 35-45 minutes at 425 degrees should do the trick.

            Beet Soup
            • 6 red or golden beets, trimmed and cleaned with skins still intact
            • 2 shallots, roughly chopped
            • 2 cups of vegetable stock
            • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
            • Salt & Pepper
            • Crème fraiche
            • Bring a medium size pot of water, enough to cover the beets, to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes - 1 hour until tender.  Drain the beets and let cool slightly until you are able to handle.  Peel and roughly chop beets.  Since these are being pureed, uniformity is not required!
            • In a deep saute pan or soup pot, heat the olive oil and saute the shallots over medium heat until just glistening, 4-5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and beets. 
            • Using an immersion blender, transferring to a food processor or stand-up blender, puree until smooth. 
            • Return to pot, without heat, and season generously with salt and pepper. 
            • Mix in 2-4 tablespoons of creme fraiche. 
            • Serve topped with an extra dollop of creme fraiche. 

            Your soup will look something like this:

            About Beets
            Long used for medicinal purposes to address ailments such as fevers and open wounds, beets have been cultivated since second millennium BC.  Both the beets leafy tops and roots are edible.  
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